Summertime...the season that packs a potentially 'deadly' combo: Over-eating and drinking at outdoor cookouts + dehydrating, hot weather + 'skin-baring' clothing = VISIBLE BLOATING! If you find yourself battling with bloat, even when you THINK you are making healthy food choices, you may be able to quell your belly with a few simple changes...

Chew your food: Yes, it's that simple. When you hungrily gobble down your food, you create an increase in air bubbles in your digestive tract. Additionally, you don't allow for digestive enzymes to get to work breaking down the food. All this adds up to bloat. Consciously chew your food, and not only will you reduce bloating, but you will also absorb more nutrition from your food, AND feel more satiated after a meal.

Stay away from carbonated beverages: This one is pretty self-explanatory... bubbles in your drink = bubbles in your stomach. 

Load up on water: All too often, folks avoid water because they are worried they will 'retain fluid' from drinking too much. Not the case at all; in fact, it's just the opposite. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your body will try to counteract the lack of fluid by...holding on to water! If you are well-hydrated, your body can easily release excess fluids, as well as move out bloat-inducing toxins in the process. 

Increase gut flora: To keep your digestive tract running 'smoothly', your gut requires a good amount of 'healthy bacteria'. Without it, food is digested poorly and slowly, and often 'sits' too long, causing a distended belly. To increase the good gut bacteria, try eating foods naturally rich in probiotics, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh (fermented tofu), non-dairy yogurts, or even a probiotic supplement. 

Stay away from allergy triggers: If you know you have a food allergy, avoid it! The most common food allergens are: dairy, eggs, fish, wheat (gluten), soy and nuts. If you often notice bloating or stomach discomfort after eating any of these foods, it's quite possible that you have an allergy, or even just an intolerance. Play it safe, and avoid any suspect foods on belly-baring days. 

Eat foods that help release excess fluids: While some foods make you hold onto excess fluids (ie. salty and heavily processed foods) some foods act as natural diuretics and aid in digestion. And it just so happens that most of them are also perfect summertime snacks. Watermelon, pineapple, coconut water, avocado, and lemon juice all either aid in diuresis and/or stimulate your digestive tract to release pent up toxins causing bloat. Another favorite diuretic of mine, albeit much less palatable than the aforementioned, is dandelion greens. Though somewhat bitter and pungent, they can easily be mixed into a salad, adding a bloat-reducing boost to your meal.

Sweat!: Not only is sweating beneficial in releasing toxins that cause bloating, cardio exercise is beneficial to your heart, your mood and your brain!